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Fiction Science Fiction Romance

Autumn lay nuzzled beneath his arm, running her slender fingers through his thick brown hair, "Coper," she said, looking at his strong jawline and super-kissable lips and felt the heavy thump-thump, thump-thump of his heart beating against the naked skin of her rib cage. 

She inhaled deeply. It reminded her of stepping out of a camp tent on a summer morning; he smelled like the forest mingled with a sweet wisp of cologne and a tinkling of sweat that tickled her nose pleasantly. To her, Coper Fields smelled like love. "It's our last night together. Tell me something I don't know about you." Then, Autumn pushed the hand on his shoulder and raised herself to look at his baby blues. "And don't say something gross—be romantic—tell me something I can remember for the rest of my life."

She seemed to be floating above him at that moment, with a half-scolding, half-seductive, and entirely irresistible smirk. Her long, auburn hair fell off her shoulder with a band behind her perfect little ear.

Her lips, still red and puffy from their amorous kissing, made him think of the new strawberries in his mom's garden when they were small and plump. He set his eyes wandering slowly, meticulously over her face, noting the shape and size of each freckle, how her cheekbones sloped and fell like an untouched snowbank, and how her eyebrows looked like tiny golden feathers above eyelids of pale, pink silk. Below them, Coper looked at her eyes, already misting with the tears he knew were sure to come.

He didn't think of himself as romantic, but his chest would explode if he couldn't make Autumn Presly believe she was the girl he wanted to have as his wife. "Come here," he said, pulling her back down and into his side where she fit better than the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. 

He pulled her close and drew the heavy wool blanket over her bare shoulders. "Look up. Do you see that bright greenish-blue star that's sort of blinking," he asked, pointing his finger over the treetops and into the liquid-blue sky. 

"Yes," she answered, seeing the star in the summer sky that clung to the last bit of evening. "It's out early. It's not even dark, and it's so bright already. Does that mean it's close?" She didn't really care about the star, but she cared about being next to him for as long as she could and tried not to think about her father and little sister coming to pick her up and take her home. "Home" was only a province away, but the nine-hour drive might as well have been a million. After tonight, she might never see Coper again.

 She bit her lip hard to hold back the tears she felt welling behind her eyes. "I love his voice. I could lie here forever and listen to anything he wanted to tell me, and they would be the most beautiful words in the world."

Coper laughed lightly, "No stars are 'close,' but it doesn't matter; that's not a star anyways—it's Jupiter." He turned his head, just barely, only enough so that he could look at her, looking up. Her profile, a soft silhouette of the perfect girl, threw his heart into a panic. In the dimming light, her pale skin seemed almost to glow. He could see the white of her teeth resting on her bottom lip, and she was smiling. "This might not even be real," he thought, "This could all be a dream, or maybe she's an angel." 

"I can feel you looking at me, you know," Autumn said softly, enjoying that he was. "Tell me why we're looking at Jupiter."

"Because it's where it begins."

"Where what begins?" she asked, furrowing her brow and adding a tiny nose scrunch. Autumn knew it was her best look; she'd practiced getting it just right in front of the mirror a hundred times and liked how boys looked at her without blinking when she did it. 

"The parade of planets," he answered, "If we look closely when it's dark enough, we might be able to see all five in alignment." 

"Wow! Do they always do that?" she asked. 

"No," he said, still looking at her. Autumn had shifted her body, turning into him, and the blanket had slipped down her arm; the curve of her breast was visible, the powder pink of her areole barely peeking out from the cloth. "It only happens once every twenty years or so." He inhaled and momentarily closed his eyes. When he opened them, Autumn had turned her face to his. "It's as rare as you. If you didn't know what to look for, you might go your whole life and never see anything like it." He said, lost in her eyes.

She threw herself on top of him, pulling the blanket over them, and kissed him furiously. Sweet and soft like fresh cookies, she gobbled his beautiful mouth with panic-chasing passion, knowing that the end of her summer vacation had arrived. In the morning, these best moments of her life would move to memories, and she wanted to add as many pages to her book of love as possible before time wrote the final line. 

She felt powerful and in full ownership of her beauty. Her eyes went wide, unblinking; she opened her soul and passed it to the man beneath her. Her hair cascaded over his face and chest like a waterfall, and she felt the powerful currents of pleasure rushing from her chin to her toes. Autumn Presly had arrived as a girl, but she had become a woman somewhere between the here and now and the there and then. 

Coper's hand rested on the small of Autumn's back, and his fingertips touched a trickle of perspiration. He felt a unique and unnamed satisfaction in having made her sweat. The way tiny beads appeared above her top lip and how the hair behind her ears and crown darkened with the moisture, all the while, her eyes remained open, staring, going wider with excitement.

It was twilight when she tucked into the hollow of his side, custom-made to fit her shape. All Coper could think about was the euphoric bliss racing through his body, but a new instinct told him, talking about how great it was and how everything felt would somehow take away from the magic. Instead, he set his eyes on Jupiter and quickly found the other planets in the celestial parade. 

"There," he said, pointing again at Jupiter but slightly up and to the right. "That's Saturn, do you see it?"

Autumn was lying still and quiet, but a vibration of sheer joy was trying to escape her body through her toes; she followed Coper's outstretched arm and pointer finger. "The small one? I see it! Saturn! Wow, that's so cool! What's next? You said we could see five."

"She listens to me," he thought, and it warmed him knowing that this gorgeous girl found everything about him interesting. "Maybe—well, there are five, but we probably won't be able to see Neptune and Uranus." 

Neither allowed so much as a chuckle to escape at the planet with the worst name in the history of planets; both were trying very hard to be very mature. 

"Go back to Jupiter," he instructed, "Now go down a little way, then scan left, just barely above the horizon—that'll be Mercury." 

Autumn listened intently and carefully followed Coper's instructions. Her small hands squeezed his arm. "I see it! Small and blueish—or white—I'm not sure what color it is, but I see it! Mercury!" She wasn't faking; Autumn truly believed picking planets out of the evening sky was amazing. 

Coper shifted, breaking the seal between their bodies. "I'll grab the binoculars from the truck. We won't see Neptune and Uranus without them." When he popped to his feet and stood naked in the fading light, Autumn burst out in laughter, shrieking and kicking the blanket as he walked away from her. 

He stopped, turned, and looked back while scratching his head. "What's so funny?"

The blanket bounced into the air from Autumn's kicks; she was in hysterics. 

"What?" he asked again, turning in circles, looking for something amiss and embarrassing.  

She pointed as he pirouetted and shrieked again each time he turned his bare bottom toward her. "I—I found it!" she gasped between her cackling. "I don't need binoculars!"

 Coper stood with his hands on his hips, looking well and truly confused. 

"URANUS!! I found URANUS!!" she roared, pulled the blanket over her head, and shouted a muffled apology. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. It was too perfect!" She peeked from the blanket and saw Coper racing toward her in mock fury. She shrieked and dove under the blanket, her laughter echoing off the trees. 

He raced around her, swatting and growling at her like a bear, then began laughing. Leaving her unmolested, he trotted to his truck and retrieved the binoculars. Moments later, they resumed their positions, snuggled beneath the blanket, looking up at the night sky. It took some work, but in the space between Mercury and Jupiter, the pair of young lovers found Neptune and the butt of her joke, Uranus. 

While Autumn stared through the binoculars, Coper waxed on about the infinite and inconceivable expanse of the universe and how small and insignificant Earth is. While Coper went on and on, his wonder and awe growing with each new thought, Autumn's heart shrunk, and her joy evaporated. She didn't like the idea of being lost in such an enormous space. It was too much, too overwhelming, and lonesome. 

Autumn didn't want to think of the great, big universe; she wanted her world to be small. "I'd be happy right here," she thought, "In this little square of woods on the hilltop, a mile from a small nobody-knows-about town, with Coper, and I'd love him enough to fill his universe." A sudden panic rose in her chest, and she wrapped her arms around Coper and squeezed him hard. The tears came. 

The impending arrival of her father, coming to collect her and take her home, felt like she was marching to her death. Autumn and Coper had been inseparable from the first night they met at the park after the baseball game. Her tears came readily now while he wrapped his arms around her and held her close. 

Jupiter's glimmering blue-green light reflected like a kaleidoscope through her watery eyes. Autumn wiped the tears away, stared at the Roman sky God, and made her wish—she prayed for the night never to end. 

"I'm sorry," she said to Coper, sniffling. "I told myself I wouldn't do this, but I can't help it —I've fallen in love with you like every high school summer love cliché, and there's nothing I can do about it. I have to go home, and I'll never see you again." 

Coper heard the words he was about to say, that he loved her and couldn't think of spending a day apart. He reached behind the blanket on the ground and retrieved his blue cotton t-shirt. Pulling Autumn into his side, he wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Take my shirt. Keep it. I don't have anything else to give you, but I---," he hesitated.

She raised her eyes to him, waiting, hoping for a foolish promise and asking an impossible question. She knew and wanted to make it easier for him. "Would you?" she asked, smiling with trembling lips. "Could you? Truly?"

He brushed the loose strands of her beautiful, long hair behind her ear and looked deep into her eyes with all the sincerity his heart could muster. "I would, Autumn. I could. I wouldn't want anyone else ever for the rest of my life. I only want you." 

A silence fell between them, and the universe hushed and stopped, opening a vein in time that belonged only to the pair so wonderfully, painfully, in love. 

It was Autumn who spoke first. Her heart swelled with emotions she hadn't the experience to understand; she was lost in the first perfect moment of her life, "It's already perfect, you know." She threaded her fingers through his and squeezed his hand tight. "If you married me, I would be Autumn Fields—have you ever heard a more wonderful name? Autumn Fields." She kissed him softly, once, then again. Her eyes shimmered with new tears, "I would love to be Missus Autumn Fields." 

Coper had been in unfamiliar territory from when Autumn first said "Yes" to going out with him. From the first slow blink and half-scrunched nose, he was a goner—she was the prettiest girl he'd ever seen, and even seeing her every day since then hadn't been enough—he wanted to fall asleep and wake to the sight of her beautiful face and the sound of her soft voice.

"I never told you that thing about me," he said. 

"What thing?" she asked, glad he was taking the conversation in a new direction since she had no idea how to navigate the path they were on. 

"Something you don't know about me, something for you to remember me by—how I got my name," he explained. "My mom, she's a space geek, believes all that star sign and God mythology bunk—for real, though. She's an astrophysicist. Works for a satellite company—deep space stuff. She named me for Copernicus, the famous French astronomer—that's where Coper comes from and why it's not spelled like the metal."

Autumn looked at him and smiled. "He really was from the heavens," she thought. "That's how you knew about the planets," she concluded. "I bet you use that stuff on all the girls." She was teasing, trying to be cute, but his face dropped, and his smile flattened. She felt a new kind of nervousness. 

"I swear to Jupiter," his voice, calm but stern, "If you leave me if you go home and forget me, I'll never raise my eyes to the stars again."

And the old Gods heard their pleas. 

The last arc of fading sunlight held, the glow of twilight turning treetops into spears against the dimming sky. The parade of planets pulled together into a banner of blinking lights, then, like an arm reaching across the expanse, it extended a hand that closed over the earth, ceased its rotation, and turned it back. 

Autumn and Coper felt the earth shudder beneath their feet. The mighty trees swayed in the windless night, bowing to the right before snapping back and exhaling a spasm of wind. The sky turned, stars, clouds, and planets pulling in reverse. The fading skylight of the sun brightened and rose once more above the mountaintops. 

Time bent into light, and the world bulged, convex, and warped. It pushed Autumn and Coper backward through the actions of the evening hours. Holding onto each other, they watched their bodies replaying a bizarre orchestra of sounds and movements. They felt impossibly heavy, stretched, and nauseous. Pulled by forces beyond comprehension, their minds failed to maintain consciousness, and the young lovers, sworn to each other under the eyes of ancient Gods, fell to the ground, cocooned in the blankets of their lovers' berth. 

They woke from what felt like a long sleep, and when Autumn and Coper opened their eyes, everything was the same as when they'd driven to the top of the bluff. The blankets were rolled and tied, sitting against the log. The cooler sat next to his truck with the food and drinks Coper had packed. It was the same view, sky, temperature, and--,"

"Coper!" Autumn yelped, "Check your watch!" Her eyes were so wide he could see the white all the way around her pupils. She was staring at her wristwatch. He raised his arm and looked at his grandfather's wind-up Swiss watch. Then they looked at each other. 

It was the same day. Six hours earlier. The evening had reset to late afternoon. They had been granted every man's most desperate wish—more time. 

Coper stood stunned, dumbfounded at the miracle, astonished by the feat—he had turned back time. He hadn't a chance to think it through when Autumn came bounding and leaped in his arms, shrieking with jubilation. He stumbled backward, wrapped his arms around her, and fell to the ground, clutching the most beautiful girl in the world—and he could keep her forever. 

Then, as quickly as Autumn had rejoiced, she suddenly recoiled. Pushing herself off of him, she dug her heels into the earth, scampered back, and stood. A look of panic struck her face. 

"Autumn! What's wrong?"

"I did it too," she answered. "I looked at Jupiter, and through my tears, I wished it. I wished for this night never to end." 

"Then what's wrong? Why are you upset? This is what we both wanted."

She looked at him, her eyes still wide with shock, fear, and something else.

Regret. 

"But not like this, Coper. Not like this, here, forever!" Her voice raised an octave, and she began to run. "What about my dad? And my little sister, Kelsey?" She yelled as she ran to the edge of the clearing that looked out over town. 

Then Autumn hit something that wasn't there and bounced back, tumbling into the grass. 

Coper ran to her, and he saw her crying, shaking her head, and pointing to the edge, but Coper saw nothing but wide-open sky and the hill dropping away. He charged ahead.

Then he hit the barrier and fell back, tumbling beside her. 

Over the following hours, the pair stalked, walked, and crawled along every inch of the hilltop until the sun sank to the trees and rose again. It was the same everywhere. An invisible barrier held them, trapped in the place and time they had chosen to be their eternity. 

September 06, 2023 02:47

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2 comments

Chora Chorion
07:35 Sep 14, 2023

Such sexy, self-aware writing! I love the pacing and the thematic relevance. Flawless execution overall :)

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Arpad Nagy
01:28 Sep 15, 2023

Thanks, so much, Chora. I appreciate your feedback!

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